"The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson" by Robert Louis           Stevenson

The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson Volume One, 1854 - April 1874 Robert Louis Stevenson, Bradford A. Booth, Ernest Mehew

Publication date:
31 Aug 1994
Yale University Press
542 pages: 235 x 152mm

Robert Louis Stevenson, celebrated author of such treasured classics as Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, has long been recognized as a master storyteller and essayist. But he was also a delightful and instructive letter writer. Now, in the centenary of his death, Yale University Press is publishing the definitive edition of Stevenson's collected letters in eight handsomely produced volumes. The edition will contain nearly 2800 letters; only 1100 have been published before, and many of these were abridged or expurgated.
The letters make fascinating reading, not only for those interested in Stevenson's life and work but also for everyone interested in nineteenth-century literature and social history.
The letters in volumes I and II, which cover the years from 1854 to 1879, reveal Stevenson's struggles to achieve success as an author. We learn of his years as a student, his work, and his travels. We meet the people who became his chief correspondents for the rest of his life, including Sidney Colvin, who was to be his literary mentor and lifelong friend; the poet and critic W.E. Henley; and Fanny Osbourne, who later became Stevenson's wife. During this period Stevenson published stories and essays and two books, An Inland Voyage and Edinburgh: Picturesque Notes, and set off on the journey to the Cevennes later immortalized in his famous Travels with a Donkey.
Ernest Mehew's introduction and detailed annotation place the letters in a biographical framework that gives a chronology of Stevenson's life; explains his family background; and identifies the people he met, the literary projects he planned, and the contemporary events to which he refers.

Bradford A. Booth, who was professor of English at the University of California at Los Angeles and died in 1968, began the work on this edition. Ernest Mehew, who has worked on this edition for more than twenty years, is widely recognized as the leading authority on Stevenson's life and work.

"The outstanding literary event of the centenary year will be the publication of the first six (out of eight) volumes of the Letters. This will give us for the first time the full texts, including a great many letters never previously published, from the Beinecke Library, the National Library of Scotland, and other collections. The first two volumes, for instance, will publish in full all the letters where the young Stevenson poured out his hopes and his troubles to his confidante, Mrs. Frances Sitwell."?Janet Adam Smith, New York Review of Books

"Those who know the author well will be delighted by the collection and hunger for more; while those unfamiliar with his work could do no better than begin here."?John Yates, Yorkshire Post

"One of the best letter writers in English receives his due in the hands of Stevenson authorities Booth and Mehew. . . . To read Stevenson gaining confidence in his art is to understand the humble yet unerring precision that invests all his great fiction so memorably."?Kirkus Reviews

"Consistently entertaining, whether from a transcontinental railway car, a sickbed in France, or an overcrowded writing desk."?Kirkus Reviews

"In the centenary year of [Robert Louis Stevenson's] death, it was good to have volumes I and II of The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson. What a correspondence!?Littered with unexpected slang and saucy vulgarisms."?Ian Thomson, Independent Weekend

"Utterly captivating. They are miraculously fresh and extremely funny, a stream of flashing, twisting, living wit."?Spectator

"This is, on all scores, the definitive edition, and it will never be superceded."?Harold Orel, English Literature in Transition

"Mehew illuminatingly explains RLS's references to his family and friends, his work, books and contemporary events, and identifies people mentioned.  The letters are set in a biographical framework which he believes to be the fullest and most accurate chronology of RLS's life."?Neil Macara Brown, Scottish Book Collector

"[Mehew's] editing of the Stevenson letters is everything that could be desired.  Mr. Mehew has been able to date most of the letters precisely and place the rest in a reasonable context."?William Maxwell, New Yorker 

"The volumes include succinct biographical commentary on Stevenson and the lives of his correspondents as well as thorough, often fascinating annotations on the contents of the letters."?Brian Moore, New York Times Book Review

"Stevenson's strong emotions, droll good humor, imagination, and high spiritedness are also clearly reflected. . . . The editors' annotations, dating, and notes are detailed, clear, unobtrusive, informed, precise, and free of cant. The care exercised on this edition would argue that it is a bona fide work of love.  Any library with any ambitions of providing important primary sources should have a set.  Highly recommended."?T. Loe, SUNY College at Oswego, Choice

"Ernest Mehew's editing of the letters, building on Booth's beginnings, is exemplary.  The mass of additional material conveyed in notes is a signal achievement, the referencing to Stevenson's works excellent."? Spectator

"These volumes make compelling reading. The account of Stevenson's fight for survival represents a remarkable human document, but, more than that, his letters are themselves among his finest literary achievements."?Leonee Ormond, Country Life

"The definitive edition . . . it will never be superceded."?Harold Orel, English Literature in Transition

"The collected Letters transform Stevenson studies. This is the best and most judicious chronology of RLS's life we have ever had."?Nicholas Rankin, Literary Review

"One gets the impression that it could hardly have been better done, being beautifully laid out and organised, copiously and concisely annotated, and managing, by tactfully-dosed commentary, to achieve all the effect of a biography."?P. N. Furbank, London Review of Books